Top of Mind - December 13, 2010

How effective will provincial Liberal leadership candidate Christy Clark's messaging be on the campaign trail?

That messaging has three major themes: promoting party renewal and democratic reform; keeping the New Democrats out of government; and supporting family first policies. But there are significant contradictions within them. For example, how can Ms. Clark talk about the need for British Columbia's government be more "open and responsive to the citizens of the province" while accusing the opposition of only standing for "same old elites that they represented the last time they were in government?" Some might also question her credibility in raising such issues since her supporters include former Liberal campaign co-chair Patrick Kinsella, whose government relations firm helped win major government contracts and benefits for powerful foreign and corporate interests. And is it possible to improve the education and healthcare systems by practising the divisive politics Ms. Clark appears to be advocating? As such, her messaging could collapse under the weight of these contradictions - significantly compromising her air campaign.

What will be the consequences of continued New Democrat infighting?

Ms. James's embittered resignation announcement has, intentionally or unintentionally, given loyalists cause to continue campaigning against the dissidents - demanding Jenny Kwan's resignation. This gives legs to stories about New Democrat infighting and could cause some of the dissidents to think about not running for re-election. It's possible the coming leadership race will disperse and channel these energies into more productive endeavours. But our opinion is the New Democrat leadership would be better advised to make a public statement welcoming the dissidents back into the fold - despite Ms. James's apparent inability to do so.

Why are the loyalists continuing to fight against the dissidents?

Those who supported Ms. James are understandably upset about her having to step down - as well as the public airing of dirty laundry which led up to that decision. In part, that's because the methods used to force Ms. James's resignation are seen as being at odds with the party's union-influenced culture of solidarity forever. But what's odd is some of her supporters had earlier privately questioned her leadership - which was never enthusiastically backed by the party's membership base. So it possible their continued infighting is also driven by the threat Ms. James's resignation poses to their personal credibility or position?

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